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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Angelique S. Chengelis

Michigan fends off Purdue to win 2nd straight Big Ten title; College Football Playoff on deck

INDIANAPOLIS — Only one goal remains on Michigan’s checklist.

The Wolverines set out this season with a list of four items they hoped to accomplish. During the regular season, they checked off two of them with wins over rivals Michigan State and Ohio State, and on Saturday, they crossed off a third.

Michigan remains unbeaten at 13-0 after winning its second straight Big Ten championship — goal No. 3 — this time defeating Purdue, 43-22, before 67,107 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Boilermakers under Jeff Brohm, entered the game 3-1 against top-five teams, kept things close in the first half, but in the end settled for five field goals as they fall to 8-5.

"We all know the job's not finished," Michigan defensive back Mike Sainristil said on UM radio.

Now, the Wolverines turn their focus to a national championship, the last goal they set out to achieve this season. They are No. 2 in the College Football Rankings and await their national semifinal opponent and destination on Sunday during the CFP television reveal.

Sophomore running back Donovan Edwards, his right hand in a cast, rushed for 185 yards on 25 carries, including a 27-yard touchdown. Sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy was 11-of-17 passing for 161 yards one interception and three touchdowns, 25 yards to Colston Loveland, seven yards to Luke Schoonmaker and 17 yards to Ronnie Bell. Kalel Mullings, a linebacker most of the season, had two short-yardage scores. On defense, freshman cornerback Will Johnson had two interceptions.

The Wolverines carried a 14-13 lead into halftime and had to rely on their bread and butter — a stingy second half. McCarthy has crowned Michigan the “best second-half team in the country” and the Wolverines relied on their second-half flex yet again. The Wolverines held Ohio State to three points last week in the final two quarters and in the previous seven games had held a 157-20 second-half advantage. They outscored Purdue 29-9.

Michigan jumped out to a 28-13 lead behind two quick scores. Edwards ran 60 yards on the Wolverines’ first play in the half and Mullings, who is shoring up Michigan’s short-yardage run game, scored on a one-yard run.

After the defense held Purdue on a three-and-out, Michigan took a 28-13 lead on two big plays. Schoonmaker caught a 40-yard pass from McCarthy, then Edwards broke six tackles for a 27 yard touchdown.

The Boilermakers, with 7:38 left in the third quarter, used seven plays and reached the Michigan 8-yard line, but Aidan O’Connell was sacked by Taylor Upshaw and Eyabi Okie to force a field goal

McCarthy made a poor decision Michigan’s next possession and was intercepted for the third time this season. Purdue drove 13 plays and reached the Michigan 12-yard line but Okie hurried O’Connell on third down into an incompletion, forcing another field goal.

Johnson grabbed his second interception of the game and the Wolverines converted it into points three plays later to build a 36-19 lead. McCarthy found Bell in the back of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown and then made the two-point conversion when McCarthy found Schoonmaker.

The Wolverines played their first game without leading rusher Blake Corum, who revealed Saturday morning via social media that he underwent successful knee surgery. Corum played an enormous role in getting Michigan to this point and after two carries against Ohio State last week, was sidelined. Michigan also was without edge rusher Mike Morris, who on Tuesday was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year. Morris was limited last week and is nursing a lower leg injury.

Michigan had a 14-13 lead at halftime and took a 7-0 lead with a 55-yard, seven-play opening scoring drive as Loveland caught his second touchdown of the season, this time on a 25-yard pass from McCarthy. The Wolverines have scored on its first possession 11 of 13 times this season, and this was their eighth touchdown.

Michigan’s second score came off a 13-play 75-yard drive that was kept alive with a Purdue penalty as Jake Moody was about to attempt a field goal. Mullings, who saw some time at running back last week at Ohio State, ran two yards to convert the fourth-and-1 play to keep the drive alive. McCarthy connected again with a tight end, this time, Schoonmaker on a seven-yard score to give Michigan the 14-10 lead. This was Schoonmaker’s third touchdown of the season.

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